Flybe Builds its Network from Birmingham

UK low-fare carrier has announced a significant growth of its operation at Birmingham Airport in summer 2014 with the launch of seven routes from the Midlands gateway. After making significant cuts to its network late last year as part of a restructuring to return the business to profitability, this growth represents a significant step forward for the carrier and provides an insight into its future development strategy.

Flybe will base three additional Embraer 175s at Birmingham this summer, increasing the station to 12 aircraft, its biggest ever regional base in its long history. These will be used to facilitate a network growth that will see the introduction of a six times a week service to Florence, a new destination for the airport; daily flights to Cologne; a six times a week service to Toulouse; a five times a week service to Alicante and four times a week rotations to Bordeaux, Palma Mallorca and Porto.

The airline’s daily service to Florence, capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and those to Toulouse and Porto in particular open up some important commercial regions for business travel but also are an attractive draw for leisure as well. The routes to Alicante, Cologne, Florence and Porto will commence from April 10, 2014, while Bordeaux, Palma and Toulouse will join the network from May 13, 2014.

“This news reinforces the increasing emphasis that Flybe is putting on its operations at Birmingham Airport. Our decision to support the region by basing an extra three aircraft here is not only a vote of confidence in the local economy but also in the strong relationship we have built with the airport team,” said Paul Simmons, chief commercial officer, Flybe.

The news follows shortly after the UK regional carrier revealed it would be boosting the frequency on three of its most popular European routes from Birmingham from the end of March namely those to Hanover, Milan-Malpensa and Stuttgart. As a result of the seven, Flybe will now operate 32 routes to and from Birmingham for Summer 2014 with a choice of up to 375 return flights a week totalling 1.7 million seats.

“Not only will this growth make Birmingham Airport Flybe’s biggest ever base, it will also become our largest carrier, flying up to 400,000 extra passengers a year and serving nearly two million travellers in total,” added William Pearson, aviation development director, Birmingham Airport.

Flybe’s business model is based on supporting the UK’s regional economies and it believes the London-centric media coverage of the ongoing aviation capacity debate clearly illustrates that all too often leaders neglect the rest of the country.

“By substantially increasing services from the UK’s second largest city, Flybe is demonstrating it realises the importance of maintaining and developing easy and affordable choices with convenient multi frequency regional schedules. We believe that our future here in Birmingham is bright and we remain committed to continue to play an important role in the development of airline passenger services to and from Birmingham and the Midlands,” added Simmons.

As reported above, Florence is a brand new destination from Birmingham, but the Flybe links to the other six destinations represent the return of regular direct flights to two locations and increased competition for the existing operators on four routes. The airline will resurrect air links to Cologne, last served by TUIfly (then Hapag-Lloyd Express) in January 2008 and Oporto, formerly linked to Birmingham by Ryanair up until October 2010.

Flybe will compete with Monarch Airlines, Ryanair and Thomson Airways on the Alicante route and the same airlines plus Thomas Cook Airlines and TUIfly to Palma, while Monarch has a seasonal summer link between Birmingham and Bordeaux and Thomson a winter link to Toulouse. Both the latter two routes have been previously flown by Flybe from the Midlands’ airport.

In a further commitment to supporting the UK’s regions Flybe has also announced it will step in to retain the air link between Newquay and London Southend that has been dropped by easyJet. The carrier is also continuing its Newquay – London Gatwick route during summer 2014 ensuring the remote Cornish city retains its vital links to the Capital City. The airline will offer a three times weekly offering between May 16, 2014 and September 27, 2014.

“It was an easy decision to keep this route alive,” explained Simmons. “Summer air services to Cornwall are an essential part of the tourism jigsaw that supports the South West’s leisure economy and Flybe is pleased to step in with an extended four-month summer season this year.”

As we highlighted in our ‘Domestic Skies’ report last month, Flybe maintained its position as the largest UK domestic carrier in 2013, although it is likely to lose the top spot to easyJet following the closure of a number of its domestic flights into London and between other points within the UK. However, its growth at Birmingham shows its ambitions for development and its success there and in Manchester and Southampton could see additional international network opportunities in the future.

In our analysis below we look in greater detail at Flybe’s operations at Birmingham Airport over the past ten years. During this period the carrier has increased annual departures by 29.5 per cent and capacity by 43.0 per cent boosting its share of available seats from the airport from 16.2 per cent to 20.1 per cent.

FLYBE’S SCHEDULED CAPACITY FROM BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT (non-stop departures)

Year

Departures

% Change

Available Capacity

% Change

% Market Share

pp change

2013

12,757

(-1.6) %

1,174,994

0.0 %

20.1 %

(-0.9) pp

2012

12,966

(-0.6) %

1,174,594

4.9 %

21.0 %

0.3 pp

2011

13,045

(-3.1) %

1,119,312

(-2.6) %

20.7 %

(-0.2) pp

2010

13,458

5.0 %

1,148,850

8.1 %

20.9 %

2.3 pp

2009

12,812

(-12.1) %

1,062,444

1.6 %

18.6 %

0.2 pp

2008

14,581

6.6 %

1,045,554

7.0 %

18.4 %

(-0.7) pp

2007

13,679

(64.7) %

977,021

27.6 %

17.7 %

3.1 pp

2006

8,306

(-7.4) %

765,742

(-14.8) %

14.6 %

(-1.7) pp

2005

8,971

(-8.9) %

899,086

9.4 %

16.3 %

0.1pp

2004

9,850

-

821,684

-

16.2 %

-


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